We’ve Been “Not Leaving” for a Long Time
I recently wrote an article about the difficult period that Israel is facing (Iran, Syria, Hamas etc..) yet how I am proud to be here, despite the dangers. This article generated a tremendous response from you – the readers – who emailed me incredible words of support and motivation. Please allow me to share just two of the many responses I received. I hope they put a smile on your face, the way they did to me.
A little background is necessary for the first letter. The year was 1942 and, if you think times are difficult now, that was nothing compared to 1942 in Israel. The Nazis (may their memory be cursed) were advancing towards Israel – they were already in Egypt - and were working hand in hand with the Arabs. Danger existed everywhere and people were afraid to leave their homes. Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, one of the leaders of the Zionist movement (and future 2nd president of Israel), actually asked the US government to allocate ships for the evacuation of the Jewish population from Eretz Yisrael! As a response, the Etzel underground movement published a placard and posted it across the land. Here is what it said: (Thanks to Yair Wiseman for sending this to me).
Announcement to the Hebrew Public!
In light of the situation, the National Military Organization (Etzel) in the Land of Israel announces its decisions to the entire Hebrew public, as follows:
Even in the event that the German enemy nears the borders of our Homeland, the Hebrew youth will not retreat from the Land of Israel under any circumstances, but rather, will fight according to its plans, under Hebrew command and for the Hebrew state.
The Hebrew youth will smash the Arab enemy, if it will raise its head and dare to harm the honor and wellbeing of the Hebrew settlement.
The public is requested to lend a hand to strengthen the ranks of the Hebrew youth that is fighting to establish the Hebrew army and for the liberty of Israel.
The National Military Organization (Etzel) in the Land of Israel
20 Tamuz, 5702 / July 5, 1942
As you can read on that poster – from 76 years ago – many Jews have been determined to stay and fight for a long time! But, now comes letter #2, and this one tells a story from even before 76 years ago. (Thanks to Shelli Karzen for sending this to me).
The year was 1830, and Rebbe Avraham Dov of Avritch made aliyah to Tzfat. He always had a deep love for Eretz Yisrael, so when he was 65 years old and the Rav of Avrtich, he decided he would finally leave everything and make aliyah.
To make a long story short, life in Tzfat was really hard and the Rebbe couldn't adjust. He decided to return to Avritch, when – all of a sudden - he heard strange noises coming from the rooftops. He was told that the noise was the women of Tzfat removing all their possessions from the roof before the rain.
“Not a cloud in the sky”, he asked. “What rain? What's going on?” The people reminded the Rebbe that it was the 7th of Cheshvan (when Jews in Israel begin praying for rain) and they sincerely believed that it would rain as soon as they requested it.
He couldn’t believe the incredible faith, these simple Yidden had in Hashem. This opened his eyes to the beauty of the Land and the close connection to Hashem that existed all around. He decided not to leave.
After that, the Rebbe suffered further terrible hardships, including being kidnapped and almost beaten to death by Druze thugs who lived nearby. People would come to him crying in despair, especially after the great earthquake in 1837 which destroyed over 80% of Tzefat, yet he told them all; "Never leave Tzfat, no matter what!!"
Fast forward to 1948. Tzfat was in a state of siege and the Arabs were about to attack the Jewish community. The fighters had to decide if they should fight or evacuate and save everyone from what seemed like certain death. They debated but couldn't decide. Finally, they agreed to go to sleep for a few hours and regroup early in the morning.
That night, the commander of the Tzfat forces had a dream. The Rebbe Avraham Dov appeared to him and said one thing, over and over again: "Never leave Tzfat, no matter what!" In the morning, the commander announced his decision that they would stay and fight. Baruch Hashem, although the battle was difficult, the Jews of Tzfat succeeded in driving out the Arabs and the community was miraculously saved! The city of Tzfat remained in Jewish hands… until this very day!
And now you know, why I’m still not leaving. Am Yisrael Chai!!
Photo: By Moshe Farhi - Palmach archive Yiftach 3rd Battalion Hachsharot 5 album Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57937886